On the Futility of Self-Publishing

Dear Blog Bros—

I wasn’t planning to post a blog today, but we (finally, finally!) got snow last night.  So, in honor of that, I thought I’d write a little essay about my continuing ‘Adventures in Publishing.’

Firstly, I just watched BJ Novak’s book trailer for ONE MORE THING, and guess what?  It’s great.  And so, according to my local bookstore, is his collection of short stories.  Well, I can’t complain about BJ’s talent or success.  I’ve been a fan of his for years.  But what I can complain about is the amount of loud, laudatory, instant, fantastic visibility his book is getting!  Granted, his book is published by Knopf (oh, yeah, Knopf, big name), but that’s not what interests me.  What I wonder is what it takes for a poor self-published slob—the one without name recognition, fame, Hollywood ties, Harvard degrees, etc., etc.—to score in this literary landscape.

Ok.  So I signed up for a free webinar about boosting your book’s visibility on Amazon.  I was not happy about sacrificing family time to do this, but I did.  And what did I learn?  Horror-of-horrors—the host’s main thrust was to encourage us to write 2 books per month, outsourcing the writing if desired, on any subject* we have a minimal amount of interest in (no expertise required; Wikipedia furnishes that) as long as we find the right ‘niche.’

And how do you find a niche?  Study Amazon’s top 100 lists—any of them, all of them.  Choose your subject.  Then look for the last book on the first page of this particular Top 100 List.  Make sure the book isn’t TOO popular (I can’t remember the metric here—something like ranking higher than 50,0000 in the Kindle bookstore) or too unpopular (below a ranking of 30,000, I think).  Then, if the book you’ve found fits these parameters, BINGO!  Write one of your own on the same subject.

I probably don’t have all the details of this webinar correct, but I did get the gist of it.  And while I’m all for self-published books to see the light of day, I’m appalled at the prospect of people finding out what’s popular and writing sham books targeted for a proven (and profitable) audience.  So sad.  Now, not only are aspiring authors (ones who really want to write a book and have studied/practiced their craft for years) up against the BJ Novaks (god bless him) of the world, they’re battling tens (of hundreds?  Of thousands?) of non-writers who just see the internet (and internet book sellers like Amazon) as a place to cast their nets using whatever bogus means possible to make a profit.

Sorry for griping.  I’m just so sad about this.  I really don’t know what’s in store for folks trying to write/publish/sell really good books without a name, an advocate (eg, traditional publisher) or a glamorous scam-plan.

*Special bonus for children’s writers–the webinar host chose children’s books for his first few forays into publishing–because they’re short, don’t require much expertise, and are ‘easy to write.’

How to create a picture book on iPad and sell it on Amazon

Two tools I’ve used to create picture books are Sketchbook Pro and BookCreator for iPad.

First I draw my pictures on Sketchbook. Then I export them to my Photo Roll and download them in BookCreator, where I’ve already chosen a picture book format: landscape, portrait or square.

Next I type my picture book on BookCreator, adding text to each page.
Then the fun begins. I download the illustrations I’ve created in Sketchbook Pro from my photo stream and position them on the pages of my new picture book.

Next I email my completed book to my email address on my iMac, where arrives as an attachment.

Then I drag the attached file (which is in ePub format at this point) from the email to my desktop.

At this point, I open the conversion kit Amazon has created to convert an ePub file to a mobi file, which is the format that works on Amazon. Go to The KDP Select website on Amazon to find the various parts of this kit—KF8 Converter, Kindle Generating Software and Kindle Gen Zip.

Now I drag my picture book (which is in ePub format on my desktop) into the KF8/KindleGen Converter, and wah-la! KF8 transforms it from an ePub file to a mobi file.

Next I go to the KDP Select page on Amazon and fill it out—my book’s title, author, etc. Then I upload my book (in mobi format) as well as my book’s cover (which I’ve taken a screenshot of while it was in BookCreator and emailed to my Mac, where it appears as an attachment which I then drag to my desktop).

Lastly, I complete the Amazon form (enable DRM, set my price, etc.) and press submit. 12 hours (or less) later, my book appears on my Amazon Bookshelf and is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Sounds hard but isn’t!

Good morning, Blogging World!  It’s just ‘another rainy day in paradise’ around here. Perfect weather for reading and writing.  Today I’m going to share an on-the-way-to-publishing success story.  Ah, but where to begin?

* First thing in the morning I read everything I can about self-publishing, marketing, formatting, using social media, blogging, etc.

*Then I check the statuses of my books on Amazon and iTunes.

*Next I open my current work-in-progress, which can be anything from a new poem to the 500th revision of my middle-grade novel.

*Finally, I upload changes I’ve made to my WIP and press SUBMIT.  Then–wah-la!  It’s off to the gym or coffee with a friend or back to–you guessed it–Step 1 again!

New Season-New Theme!

Hi, Fellow Readers, Writers and Illustrators–

Still dipping my toes into the icy waters of blogging, surfing the net, indie publishing, etc., etc. Today I’m going to explore new themes on WordPress.

I love the Spirit Theme but know it can’t last forever. In fact, signs of spring will start appearing early next month in North Carolina. Usually the first thing we spot are the tiny red leaf buds on maple trees. Then daffodil fronds start pushing through the soil. Next quince will bloom and crocuses will emerge. By then we’re on our way!

Next time I’ll post some of my goals for the New Year. Usually they involve things like finally learning how to cook chicken or bake cookies or lose weight (Wait a minute–do I spot a contradiction in those goals? Hmmm. No wonder my success rate’s been questionable.)

See you next time!